(See SHEEP.) The nomadic state is one of the earliest stages of society, and was regarded as honourable even to a chief (Genesis 4:2; Genesis 4:20; Genesis 30:29 ff; Genesis 37); chiefs' daughters did not disdain to tend flocks (Genesis 29:6, etc.; Exodus 2:19). The long stay in Egypt elevated Israel from the nomadic to a settled life. The two and a half nomadic tribes received their portion in the outlying regions beyond Jordan (Numbers 32). As agriculture increased pasturage decreased, and was limited to particular spots, the border of the wilderness of Judah, Carmel (1 Samuel 25:2), Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:11; Luke 2:8), Tekoa (Amos 1:1), and Gedor (1 Chronicles 4:39). Hence the "shepherd's tent" came to symbolize desolation (Ezekiel 25:4; Zephaniah 2:6). The shepherd's occupation was now no longer dignified (Psalm 78:70; 2 Samuel 7:8; Amos 7:14).
The shepherd's office represents Jehovah's tender care of His people (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 49:9-10; Jeremiah 23:3-4; Ezekiel 34:11-12; Ezekiel 34:23). Allusions occur to the exposure to heat and cold (Genesis 31:40), the precarious food (Amos 7:14), the husks of the carob (Luke 15:16), the attacks of beasts (1 Samuel 17:34; Isaiah 31:4; Amos 3:12), robbers (Genesis 31:39). The shepherd had a mantle of sheepskin with the fleece on (Jeremiah 43:12), a wallet for food (1 Samuel 17:40), a sling such as the Bedouin still carries, a staff to ward off foes and to guide the flock with its crook (Psalm 23:4; Zechariah 11:7; so Jehovah "lifts up His staff against" His people's foes, Isaiah 10:1-24; His word is at once our prop of support and our defense against Satan). The shepherd, when far from home, had his light tent (Song of Solomon 1:8), easily taken down and shifted (Isaiah 38:12).
Towers were sometimes erected to spy a foe afar off, and to guard the flock (2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4, compare "tower of Edar," Genesis 35:21; Micah 4:8). frontEDAR.) His duty was to go before and call by name the sheep (John 10:4), watch it with dogs, a sorry animal in the East (Job 30:1), to search for stray sheep (Ezekiel 34:12; Luke 15:4), to supply water, either at a stream or at troughs by wells (Genesis 29:7; Genesis 30:38; Exodus 2:16), (so Jesus, Psalm 23:2), to bring back to the fold at evening and to reckon the sheep that none be missing (compare as to Jesus John 18:9; John 17:11-12; John 10:28-29), passing one by one "under the rod" (Leviticus 27:32; Jeremiah 33:13; Ezekiel 20:37), (i.e. you shall be counted as Mine, and subjected to My chastening discipline with a view to My ultimate saving of the elect, Micah 7:14), checking each sheep as it passed; to act as porter, guarding the entrance to the fold by night (John 10:3).
The shepherds kept watches (plural in Greek, Luke 2:8, not "slumbering," Nahum 3:18) by turns at night, not on duty both night and day as Jacob (Genesis 31:40). Tenderness to the young and feeble was the shepherd's duty, not to overdrive them (Genesis 33:13); so Jesus (Isaiah 40:11-29; Mark 6:31; Mark 8:2; Mark 4:33; John 16:12). There were chief and under shepherds (Genesis 47:6; 1 Peter 5:4), and hirelings not of the family (John 10:11-13; 1 Samuel 21:7). The shepherd had responsibility, and at the same time personal interest in the flock (1 Samuel 31:39; 1 Samuel 30:32; 1 Corinthians 9:7).
Playing on the pipe beguiled the monotony, and a feast at shearing time gave a yearly variety (1 Samuel 16:17; Genesis 31:19; Genesis 38:12; 2 Samuel 13:23). Shepherds often contended with one another as to water (Genesis 26:17-22; Exodus 2:17). The Egyptian antipathy to shepherds (whom the monuments always represent as mean) was due to their being themselves agriculturists, whereas the neighbouring Arabs with whom they so often strove were nomads. The seizure of Lower Egypt by shepherd kings (Hyksos) for centuries aggravated this dislike, though the Hyksos were subsequent to Joseph (Genesis 46:34). Princes, and even hostile leaders, are called shepherds: Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 6:3; Ezekiel 34:2; Micah 5:5. Teachers: Ecclesiastes 12:11. Messiah: Genesis 49:24; Psalm 80:1; Zechariah 13:7; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20.
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